In her weekly column, Instant Watching, Christie Dean talks about recently produced obscure and independent films that are made available through Netflix’s Instant Watch feature.
I’ve been trying to read more this summer, so I picked up a book by P. G. Wodehouse from Barnes and Noble the other day. I had read Pigs Have Wings in high school and I absolutely loved the author’s wit and all of the silly character subplots that were packed within the confines of the pages. So I was thrilled to find Piccadilly Jim on Netflix, especially since two of the main characters are two of my favorite actors—Sam Rockwell and Tom Wilkinson. I haven’t read Piccadilly Jim so I can’t say much about how true the screen version is to the book, but it dealt with the same kind of subject matter that permeates many if not most of Wodehouse’s work, especially that of the upper class and their inherent goofiness.
While I wasn’t expecting Oscar caliber performances for any aspect of the film, the acting in Piccadilly Jim was much more melodramatic and, for lack of a better word, cheesy than I anticipated. Jim Crocker, who is known more popularly as “Piccadilly Jim”, is an aristocratic womanizing drunkard à la Arthur who meets his stepmom’s sister’s niece, Anne, with whom he instantly falls in love. The problem is that, for her own reasons, she hates Jim Crocker; since Anne had never seen Jim Crocker before though, Jim assumes his butler’s name and a personality that is both gentlemanly and free of vices. At the same time, his stepmom and her sister engage in a class competition against each other, to the reluctance of their respective husbands.
Similar to many main characters who fall in love, Jim deals with deception and how to balance controlling his image toward the person he cares about versus handling others who are quick to point out his true colors. What’s so much fun about Piccadilly Jim, however, is that Jim is not the only person hiding who he really is—there are at least five other characters in the movie who are masking their own intentions for different reasons. That combined with the characters’ own perceptions of those around them created a great moment in the film when they are all together in the same room and extremely suspicious of each other. In the end, Piccadilly Jim is a light, fun, over the top flick with intelligence, just like a bit of relaxing summertime reading.